Victorious candidates of any party often claim to have received a “mandate” after an election. But since a variety of factors can influence the result, it can be difficult to establish whether particular issues or proposals have effectively been endorsed by voters based on their candidate preferences. One approach is to use polls to measure voter views on issues in the context of their political preferences. Exit polls taken in North Carolina and nationwide by Voter News Service, as well as JLF’s own pre-election Agenda 2000 poll, provide evidence for the proposition that voters were fiscally conservative and friendly to market-based solution.
For example, the North Carolina exit poll asked voters if they wanted government to “do more or do less.” As the next page shows, the answer was less government by a solid margin. Interestingly, while Democratic candidate Mike Easley won three-quarters of those who wanted more government, Republican Richard Vinroot won only two-thirds of those who wanted less suggesting that Easley’s ads were successful in creating doubt among fiscal conservatives about the former Charlotte mayor.
On the issue of school choice, polls show that the election results do not reflect public opinion on the issue. When specifically asked about Vinroot’s proposal a limited scholarship program for poor students in low-performing schools N.C. voters in the JLF poll (which projected an 8-point Easley win) favored the idea by a 51 percent to 30 percent margin. The only subgroup opposed was upper-income voters, while independents, blacks, and low-income voters were strongly in favor.
On other matters, these polls showed that voters favored private investment accounts for Social Security funds (57% to 39% in the VNS survey), a Taxpayer Protection Act (69% to 15% in the JLF survey), ending the diversion of highway revenues from highway needs (55% to 37%, JLF) and encouraging choice in education, health care, and child care through tax breaks rather than government programs (JLF).
John Hood, President